Teacher Talk: Hope for learners at Izibuko Primary

Mrs Barbara Bogogolela is a Grade 1 teacher at Izibuko Primary
Mrs Bogogolela is an inspired and wise teacher at Izibuko Primary School, committed to every child’s progress.

This Women’s Month we feature some exceptional women in our community. The first of our August heroines is Barbara Bogogolela, who shared her experience of teaching Grade One under challenging circumstances. Back in January this year, Mrs Bogogolela stood on the long corridor outside her classroom door, leading the young Grade Ones into her class on their first day of “big school”. Izibuko Primary School in Katlehong serves the local informal settlements. Nobody could possibly have foreseen what 2020 would bring her way. Nothing in her 34 years of teaching could have prepared her for the challenges she faces later this month.

On 24 August 2020, all those 40 young minds and bodies, will return after months of lockdown! These little ones who entered her life for just a few weeks and had learned to count up to five will have forgotten most of what they learned. However, she will try to give each child what they need. Individual attention is tricky in such a big class. Fortunately, her JumpStart intern, Lorraine Sibanda, will stand beside her, helping with the enormous task. According to Lorraine, “She’s very kind and professional, as an educator should be!”

Finding hope despite the difficulties

Many in Mrs Bogogolela’s class come from poor homes. Some learners under her care face momentous challenges to their education. She understands that a specialised learning environment might cater better for these children. A student with visual impairment needs a specially tailored focus. It is tough to help her students when some can’t write their names and have trouble counting. For these learners, she has to start afresh. She challenges them by saying “I don’t want to see you in this class next year! You must be promoted to Grade 2!” She often becomes so attached to the children that she wishes she could be their teacher forever!

If they’re going to go up to Grade 2 at the end of the year, they must be able to read, write, and count. To help them navigate their journeys, the learners have different resources like counters, number charts, and their NumberSense workbooks. The process developed in this workbook helps them identify numbers, count properly, and even use operational signs. Mrs Bogogolela is uncertain whether all the youngsters will be able to reach all their learning outcomes. Under different circumstances – in previous years – she would have been hopeful they would all progress confidently, able to do what’s asked of them. The break caused by Covid-19 lockdown has caused immense uncertainty.

JumpStart interns and JumpTrak help everyone go further, faster

Mrs Bogogolela has been a favourite with JumpStart interns. She mentored Siduduzile Mthembu, and helped her to follow her dreams of becoming a pre-primary teacher. Mrs Bogogolela describes her current intern, Lorraine, as a godsend who spends time focusing on learners who can’t keep up. Getting down to their level with brightly coloured counters, she helps them grasp the concepts on which mathematical learning is built. “Mrs Bogoglela taught me to relax with the learners. Now they trust me enough to ask questions,” says Lorraine. Sometimes they need simply to hear the same thing explained in slightly different words. Suddenly, they understand! If a learner is still lost then Mrs Bogogolela ensures that they receive further individual attention. Alternately, she refers them for special needs education.

JumpTrak is a useful tool, tracking learners who are excelling and flagging those who aren’t keeping up. NumberSense helps with reinforcement and revision, so that learners understand more easily. It motivates the faster learners by giving them more activities. Mrs Bogogolela reminds tutors that time takes… time! Rome wasn’t built in a day. “We must be patient with the learners, trusting that we will get to optimal outcomes. Some students improve later in the year, and we must stay positive that they will improve slowly” she says.

Covid-19 as a teacher

Some learners were able to get online with the NumberSense app during lockdown, but many had no access to a device. It will be tricky to reintegrate the two groups come the end of August. Young learners can’t easily practice social distancing in spaces that are too small. They’re kids, after all! They often forget their masks, or can’t afford them. This is of great concern to many teachers who live with underlying conditions that put them in a high risk category if they contract the coronavirus. 

A word from the District

Maria Malaza, the Subject Advisor for Maths in the foundation phase for the Ekurhuleni South District said she had seen a video of a parent and a learner working together on the NumberSense programme. She was inspired by the progress the child was making and shared the video with colleagues at the Province. “Whatever I do with JumpStart, I also report to the District and to the Province,” she said. “With the ongoing effects of Covid-19, there will be so many gaps, and time in class is terribly limited. Schools are opening and closing. We need online activities for all the learners, as just a few have had. During school closure, this would make a big difference. We want to know that all learners can get busy, learning at home.

A future for girls in education

“It is a privilege for the JumpStart Foundation to partner with teachers of the calibre of Mrs Bogogolela,” said General Manager, Callen Hodgskiss. “We are grateful for the mentorship that she has offered our young female tutors. We look forward to a future when JumpStart can make a bigger difference in the lives of all girls country wide in the arena of mathematics education.”

Partner with JumpStart

Our mission is to empower the next generation of young South Africans with the necessary skills so that they are ready to contribute as educators. Your financial support of JumpStart’s StudyAssist bursary scheme will make a significant difference to mathematics education in foundation phase at schools like Izibuko Primary School.

Meet your skills development obligations as per the Revised B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice, or donate and receive a SARS Section 18A certificate. Please email Betty for more information.

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